It's high time for the Springbok to leap like a gazelle into history, for South African rugby to signal a bold future and new mentality by finding another name for their national rugby side.

The Springbok team is dividing at home before they try to conquer at the World Cup.

Debate over the racial makeup of the side has exposed wounds and opened a window on their rugby and society. It is an ugly and hopeful debate all in one, but the opportunity to use it for good needs to be taken.

The Springbok symbol was so closely associated with the disgusting apartheid system, was so much an icon of white domination and self-indulgent cruelty, that it should have been retired in the mid-1990s when the evil segregation laws were eliminated.


While the past is horrid, there must be sympathy for many of those trying to deal with the present and shape the future with positions often so polarised. But hanging on to the Springboks name has been a mistake.

There was talk in the past of scrapping the moniker, and my returning to this subject was sparked by an email from a reader in South Africa wanting to give a perspective from that country. (A full, follow up email from him is on the way).

Symbolism is important, and the name "Springboks" stood loud and proud for racially selected teams and a purposely divided society of great haves and excessive have nots. The sight of Nelson Mandela pulling on one of those jerseys at the 1995 World Cup was an awkward moment in truth but his worldwide mana was such that his actions were virtually beyond questioning.

Yes, his was an act of reconciliation, but maybe - in hindsight - it was one that went too far. And 20 years later, there is enough evidence to say that while progress has occurred, it has been too slow and old attitudes are dying hard.

In this, the All Blacks jersey is tainted also. In one of the most tragic decisions in our history, the New Zealand Rugby Union buckled to South African pressure and the great God of rugby by sending racially exclusive teams that were hurtful and insulting to the indigenous people of this country. They were also an insult to everyone's intelligence, and the good name of this land. We've got to own up to that but this (I think) has been dealt with to most people's satisfaction.

South Africa is a different matter though. Claims that the so-called "unknown" political party seeking to stop the Springboks heading to the World Cup is engaging in cheap politicking may have validity if the discussions there are being badly skewed by it. But I doubt that. In fact, the ANA party has already achieved much by its action in the North Gauteng High Court, by highlighting the problems and bringing debate to the surface. Desperate people need to take desperate measures.

Knowing South Africa's past, and how deep the racism and hurt goes, it is inspiring to watch players of all creeds celebrating their national and professional teams' victories and share the agony of defeats. But this is clearly a veneer that does not properly reflect everything that is happening over there.

While staying in Johannesburg during the FIFA 2010 World Cup, I was truly shocked at some of the sights, and it wasn't white people scratching for a life and living in those shacks. Transformation on many levels in South African society has only worked in a limited way and it was always going to be an extraordinarily difficult task to shed the shackles of the past. Scrapping the Springboks will be another important step along the way. World Rugby might also play a part in ridding itself of this symbol of a dreadful past.


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